“To understand this increased risk of sexual or physical harm, it is helpful to consider the lack of oversight which occurs when both biological parents are no longer working as a team. Ideally, parents work together to teach children body safe rules, observe children in play particularly with older peers, and thoughtfully choose care providers. Post-divorce, this doesn’t always happen. Another explanation for these increased risks of harm connects to the potential negative/dangerous role older step/bonus siblings can play in the lives of younger children. (Even when sexual or physical abuse by an older step/bonus sibling is not a factor, children who live with step/bonus siblings are more aggressive.) Yet, most significantly, one must face the difficult truth that the primary cause of harm to children in blended family settings is the unrelated, usually male, adult – brought into the mix through romantic involvement with the biological parent.”
I was a bed wetter. I wet the bed until I was in high school. Of all the experiences I have talked about in my life, this is one of the most embarrassing ones for me to admit. Even at the age of Fifty-four years old, it is still uncomfortable to confess publicly.
There are many reasons for my embarrassment. First, of the five kids in our household, I was the only bed wetter. Even my two younger brothers, who were nine and twelve years younger than me, stopped wetting the bed before I did. Yeah, I never heard the last of that. My parents and older siblings reminded me often.
This made me very different in my family and socially unacceptable.
My bed wetting disorder automatically put me in a lower, child-like status within my family and directly impacted my self-confidence.
The bladder skill is the one thing that moves a child from the toddler to a big boy or girl status. It’s a big accomplishment. My lack thereof made me subject to punitive words, punishment, jokes, and ridicule. For about 15 years, I dealt with this on a weekly, almost daily basis. Not to mention my own embarrassment of waking up another morning in a wet bed.
My bed wetting really set off my step-father and siblings at times.
My sister and I shared a room. She was probably my worst tormentor. We were very close. But she also knew how to hurt me. She laughed at me, called me names, told me she wanted her own room because I made the room stink from my pee-filled bed. Her words would seep into my mind and remind me often that I was faulty.
My step-father, who gave me the nick-name, Squirt, also hated this uncontrollable trait about me. I think at first he thought it was a passing phase. I was five years old when he and my mother began to date.
I remember him telling me that he would call me, Squirt, until I stopped wetting the bed. Of course, he never did stop calling me this. And after he realized my bed wetting days were here to stay, he began to hate it. So much so that my mother would try and hide my wet sheets from him so another bed wetting night would not set him off.
My step dad wouldn’t beat me. But it was his eyes, his facial expression of disappointment, and at times disgust that seemed to prevent him from even looking at my face. And then, there were his words that cut me deeper than any whooping. This feeling would haunt me daily and for years to come. Sometimes he blamed my mother for babying me too much as the reason for my bed wetting. Other times, he blamed me. In his mind, someone had to be the blame! And it certainly wasn’t him. It surely could not have been a medical condition. In his mind (and others as well), it was psychological.
I was just acting out. Too spoiled. Too lazy to wake up. Too scared to go to the bathroom. Too immature. None of which were true, by the way.
The truth is I was a very sound sleeper. Mostly because of being mildly deaf in one ear and moderately deaf in my other ear. I never felt the peeing sensation or my wet clothes or bed sheets until I woke up in the morning. I woke up cold and wet.
My family believed that I could willfully choose to wet or not wet my bed. They held onto this mistaken belief, making me feel as if I was doing this on purpose, like an attention getter. Oh, ‘feel sorry for Karen,’ something they felt and cynically said without hesitation. Trust me, the last thing a child wants to get is attention or ridicule for wetting their bed. That’s common sense, 101!
While my bed wetting kept me from going over to a friend’s house once in awhile, when I was allowed, it was not without anxiety. It was a gamble. And most bets would have been against me. We didn’t have pull-ups or adult diapers back then. And while using those can be embarrassing too, waking up over a friend’s house in wet sheets or sleeping bag is far greater of an embarrassment. Trust me. I know!
When I did go for an overnight, whether it was at a friend’s or a relatives, I got the same talk, “Don’t wet the bed!” Sometimes it was a pleading, “PLEASE, don’t wet the bed!” Sometimes it was a threat, “You BETTER not wet the bed or you will NOT be allowed to go again!” Or I was reminded that I may not be invited back because of my bed wetting. The first question when I got in the car or got home was, “Did you wet the bed?” All of which caused additional stress and anxiety.
I had wished many times it was that easy. My childhood would have been much simpler without that one burden. Think about it, what child in their right mind would want to wake up at a friend’s house or a slumber party among elementary, middle, or high school peers in wet sheets? Anybody? I didn’t think so. But that was a reality for me. I had “accidents” at all those places.
This is something that my parents or my family just did not get. They thought by belittling me, embarrassing me, or making fun of me, that I would get tired of their daily antics and stop wetting the bed. They just wanted me to stop wetting the bed! What they didn’t realize is that I too wanted to stop wetting the bed but just didn’t know how.
Can you imagine waking up at slumber party with all your girlfriends and you realize your pajamas are wet. The sheer fear sets in. You start to scheme on how you can hide your wet bed from your friends. You hope that you can go home without anyone noticing. You quickly gather your bedding and take it to their parents in hopes they will keep your secret. Then your mind quickly tries to create a reasonable story or excuse you can tell. You explain why this happened as if this was an unusual circumstance. It must have been all the sodas and snacks and lack of sleep that caused this accident and HOPE that they buy it. Otherwise, Monday morning at school is going to be hell. You will now be labeled as the girl who wets the bed. And then your secret is out so not only your family can make fun of you but now you may become a joke at school too. Then, paranoia sets in. Isn’t that every pre-teenage girls dream?
I remember one time waking up from an overnight stay. My friend’s mother realized I wet the bed. She was calm while speaking with me. She ask me if I wet the bed. I told her I did. She said that she had wished I would have told her about my bed wetting condition the previous night so she could have prepared. What she didn’t understand is that bed wetting is a deep dark secret that families try to keep hidden from the general public. There is shame associated with bed wetters and not just for the bed wetter themselves. Parents and siblings don’t want relatives and friends to know they have a bed wetter in the family.
This mother was trying to be as compassionate as possible. I could tell she was treading her words gingerly so as not to offend or hurt me deliberately. I told her that I was hoping I wouldn’t wet the bed and that sometimes I don’t. Then she said, “You’re mother should have told me.” I think my mother was as embarrassed about it as I was. Maybe even ashamed.
I have to say I have had some wonderful friends who knew about my bed wetting condition and still sincerely loved me. And some of their parents were equally supportive. I sometimes wished I could have switch parents back then.
My bed wetting would create arguments among my parents. So literally, I was the reason my parents fought. Not just my bed wetting but so many other things that were unique to me, unlike my siblings, caused my parents to erupt. I will say my mother was the least to make fun of me. Though, she did join in the laughter from time to time when my siblings made fun of my bed wetting. I would look at her with hurtful eyes. She would scoff it off.
My mother also took a lot of heat from my step dad, which my siblings and I felt bad about. We were loyal to our mother. Back then, I am sure my siblings may have even blamed me on some level, unconsciously or consciously, for the discord in our household. But I no longer feel sorry for my mother. She was an adult. I was a child. She had a choice and the power to be in a relationship. I had no choice or power to stay or leave. She was my parent. I was her daughter. She had a responsibility to protect me. She could have stopped the torment but she chose not to do so.
Yes, of course! I wet my bed for all this wonderful attention from my family and my friends. Who wouldn’t?
The truth is, I wanted to be normal. Or at the very least, treated like I was normal with support and understanding. I couldn’t help that I was a bed wetter.
Maybe I had a week bladder.
Maybe I had primary nocturnal enuresis.
Maybe I experienced some trauma as an infant or as a child. Soldiers have been known to come home from war and start wetting their bed, due to PTSD, who had no previous history of bed wetting.
There was a medical reason for my bed wetting but I may never know what it was.
Maybe that’s why I get it when others make fun of people or ridicule them or belittle or punish or judge or exclude them or kill them for standing up for something that has happened, beyond their control.
Maybe they are considered socially unacceptable.
Maybe their beliefs are considered different.
Maybe their clothes or skin color or disability make them different.
Maybe their neighborhood or economic status or both are tattered.
Maybe their story, their historical lineage comes with tainted fabric.
Maybe they were abandoned by their family, their people, or their country, or maybe all three.
Maybe they’re reminded daily of the troubled past and injustices and hate.
Maybe they’re blamed for something that was out of their control.
Maybe no one protected them.
Maybe no one helped them.
Maybe no one understood.
Maybe they never received credit for all they accomplished.
Maybe others believed in the lies instead of the truth.
Maybe all they ever wanted was a chance.
Maybe…just maybe…there is more to the story…
(Please note: the original version appears to have been lost. The title was still here but the rest of the blog post was blank. I’m not sure how or why it happened. My apologies to anyone who visited this site or this blog post.)
I’ve been thinking about the word “forgiveness” and the act thereof. We hear it, see it and feel someone’s desire to implore forgiveness over others quite frequently it seems. Friends, family, coworkers, our church or place of worship, teachers, and the media are all filled with conversations about forgiveness.
Personally, I think some of us try to simplify the act of forgiveness. There are so many layers of forgiveness, so many various acts and consequences. It seems we get the whole forgiveness premise mixed-up. It can be quite complicated.
I used to work with someone whose mother died when she was five years old. Her name is Micah. Micah said the one thing that bothered her over the years is how people would tell her they ‘were sorry’ after she told them her mother died when she was five. She said she got tired of hearing it and would often avoid telling others. Micah said she couldn’t understand why people were sorry.
It does seem strange how we can so easily tell someone that we’re sorry for something that was no fought of our own. We say we are sorry to show or convey our compassion for someone. For Micah, I think since she was so young when her mother died, hearing the same response repeatedly over the years probably seemed more like an automatic response rather than a sincere condolence. For her, someone saying I am sorry was the same as someone apologizing for a wrongful act.
When Jaren was around five years old, we were having dinner at an Outback Steakhouse near Austin, Texas. We had been traveling all day, from Dallas, and were on our way back home when we stopped there for dinner. Towards the end of our meal, Jaren began to vomit. Then he began to projectile vomit. With a packed house of customers, I quickly gathered Jaren and scurried to the bathroom. One of the staff members came in the bathroom to ask me if everything was okay. I told her my son was sick and apologized for the disruption. She could see that Jaren’s clothes were wet. She showed great compassion to me and my son. She said they would clean up our table.
Jaren was overcome with emotion. Although I had remained calm with deep concern for my son and never scolded him, he began saying, “I’m sorry, Momma. I’m sorry, Momma.” He was almost in tears. I repeatedly told him that it was not his fault. I told him he could not help it that he was sick.
I was concerned about Jaren not having spare clothes to wear home. A few minutes later, the staff member returns with an Outback Steakhouse T-shirt for Jaren and an Outback bag for Jaren’s wet clothes. She apologizes to me because she says they only have a large. I graciously thank her and Outback for their kindness. I put the t-shirt on Jaren, which covers him completely. Then we gingerly walk to our table looking around wearily. I am prepared for an evil eye or a remark from someone. I pay the check and gather our belongings. As we walked out, trying to make as little eye contact as possible, I sense compassion from patrons.
To this day, I still wonder why Jaren felt he needed to apologize. I think he felt compassion for the others eating and he felt bad about what happened. At that moment, I felt like it was a pivotal moment in his childhood. One that could have an impact on his emotional well-being. I needed to convey to him so that he understood that he had no control over what happened and that it was in no way his fought.
In Christianity, we have several stories that are used to provide an example of forgiveness. One parable has a traumatic story. The other appears to be an average familial story. Both stories involve jealousy, greed, and ego.
Let’s take a look at the Prodigal Son story.
We have one son who lavishly wastes his father’s inheritance. When he has nothing left, he returns home. Ashamed of himself and his actions, he asks his father if he can return to the family as a servant. To his surprise, his father welcomes him back home, not as a servant but as his son. He even celebrates his son’s return. The older son is upset with his father for welcoming back his younger brother and celebrating his return. The father explains to his older son that he will in fact inherit everything almost as if he needs to insure his older son that the return of the younger brother will not financially impact his inheritance.
In this parable, we have three parts to forgiveness.
First, we must realize that neither the father nor the older brother searched for the younger brother who left home with his inheritance. Forgiveness is not seeking out and searching for someone so you can forgive them, especially someone who does not want nor seek someone’s forgiveness.
Second, when the younger son returns, he is not cocky or proud. He does not shout or complain to the family that they should forget about what happened, get over it, or move on. No, he is actually the exact opposite. He has been humbled by his experience. He comes home submissively. He knows his choices have consequences. And he has prepared himself for those consequences.
Third, we have a father willing to forgive because he sees his son’s heart has been humbled. His father believes his son is truly sorry and has learned from his experience. And… he is his son. It is easy for a parent to forgive their child. But the older brother on the other hand doesn’t really care that his younger brother is truly sorry or humbled. His jealousy prevents him from forgiving his younger brother initially.
In the other story, Joseph and the Coat of Many Colors, jealousy again appears to be a factor between the brothers. The brothers decide to take drastic matters. First, they planned to kill Joseph. Then, they put him in a well but had planned to rescue him later. Then they decided to sell him.
Joseph goes from being a slave to second in command and a ruler over the land of Egypt.
Twenty some years later, Joseph’s ten older brothers come to buy food in his land. They don’t recognize Joseph, who is now dressed as a prince and seated on a throne. Joseph recognizes them. However, Joseph is not ready to make amends just yet and decides to not disclose who he is to his brothers.
The story then tells us that Joseph wished to be sharp and stern with them to test them. He wanted to see if they were still selfish and cruel. The story unfolds much slower than the Prodigal Son story. Joseph is not easy to forgive. And who can blame him. His story is much more traumatic than that of the prodigal son. Still, Joseph has a desire to forgive his brothers. So he continues to test them until he realizes that his brothers are truly sorry and no longer cruel and selfish.
Again, as in the Prodigal Son story, Joseph never search for his family who wronged him. Surely he could have. He was pretty powerful and had lots of resources. He could have gone home and told his brothers that he forgave them without them offering an apology to him. He could have gloated about his position and his wealth. He could have used his power and demanded they show remorse. Or he could have punished them. But he didn’t. Joseph didn’t allow what his brothers did to him make him hard, resentful, hateful and cruel. Joseph remained humble and true to his heart and to his God. He continued moving forward with his life. Joseph knew his worth as a human being. Not as a powerful ruler over Egypt but as a messenger of God. It seemed that God was working through Joseph and had big plans for him.
Another thing to point out is that Joseph didn’t forgive his brothers at the first sight of them. Before Joseph could forgive his brothers, he needed to be sure they were truly sorry and not the same as before. Forgiveness did not come forth as easily for Joseph’s brothers as it did for the prodigal son. Only after Joseph was sure his brothers were not selfish and cruel was he able to forgive them. His brothers were sincere in their humility. They were submissive in his presence and sincerely remorseful for their actions.
For me, when I hear Jesus speak about forgiveness, these are the elements I think about.
I believe that if someone is truly repentant of their actions that caused us harm and apologizes, then we have an obligation to forgive them. Truly forgive. However, if it becomes a repetitive cycle, as in abuse, that’s a very different story. When a person is truly sorry and remorseful for their actions, they don’t retreat back to cruel or selfish acts over and over again.
On the other hand, we may or may not ever hear an apology or an admission of guilt or remorse from a person who directly or indirectly harmed us. However, we cannot allow what happen to freeze or burden us with anger and hatred. Whether or not we ever get an apology or are given an opportunity to forgive, we cannot allow the actions of someone else who meant us harm to keep us from our good.
You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. – Genesis 50:20 (NIV)
“And you know I ain’t never wanted no half nothing in my family.” ~Fences quote
Best line and scene in this movie and one that brought tears for me.
I am also a family of halves with no full biological sibling while my other siblings (three sets) that I grew up with each had one of theirs. And yes, we said your dad and my dad and your mom and my mom. Even our halves had halves. Our family is convoluted. And I didn’t want that for my kids or my family.
Growing up, my siblings often reassured me that they didn’t think of me as a half sibling but the facts were there. We didn’t always do things together as whole.
The family pics were split. Some with just the whole siblings and some by ourself/myself and some together with the halves. As a little girl, I didn’t always understand. I didn’t know why I had to get out of the picture. Our mom would tell us, this was for their dad or their grandparents, but at the time, I was 4 or 5 and I was the only one being excluded. I didn’t always understand why “they” (whoever they were), didn’t want me in their picture. I remember once, our mother letting me and my half sister take a picture together. It was clear it was to appease me and my insecurities.
Some of the moms, dads, or grandparents were actively involved and some were not. That’s hard to explain to children and a hard pill for them to swallow.
When my brother died and made his will, I was the only one left out, while his full blooded sister and our shared father were both included. It did hurt. I didn’t care about the money. He could have left me $20.00 or a family heirloom. But it was the fact that there was no mention of me at all.
Sadly, it didn’t turn out as good as I had hoped for my boys. I still grapple with the intent of my family to sever my ties with my youngest son. But at least my sons have a full-blooded sibling. They have the same biological mother and father. And they have each other.
I know if anything happened to me, that Noah’s parents would adopt Jaren into their family as well.
In honor of Mother’s Day, I asked some of my friends to share their thoughts and insights of what they learned from parenting.
Encourage your children to be themselves. Allow them to express themselves in their own unique way. Remember it takes a village. It’s okay to ask for help. Take time for yourself. Do things to fill your bucket so you have more to give. ~Allyson
Be patient. You only have them as “little ones” for a very short time. Pick your battles; half of them aren’t worth the energy. ~Arlene
Pick your battles! It’s easy to get caught up in each and every battle with your child, but remember…it’s the joy of quality time that is cherished and remembered, not the ability to clean their room perfectly. Each child is completely different. So, whether you are showing love or reprimanding a child, keep in mind what works for one child doesn’t necessarily work for the other. When you’ve overreacted to your child’s behavior or made a choice that concerned them that you now realize was the wrong choice, be honest with them and apologize. Teach your child that not only is it okay to make mistakes, but “owning” that mistake makes you a person with integrity. ~Kelly
Let go of nagging and let consequences rule, even if you have to bite your tongue. Enjoy them for who they are. It doesn’t take much to create an estrangement – don’t let it be because of something stupid. ~Katie
Cherish every moment, even the frustrating ones. Because before you know it, they’re not little anymore and think they don’t need you. Know that eventually, they will need you again. ~Kim
Two words: Pay Attention. Pay attention to your child. Watch and listen instead of just reacting. Little ones don’t know how to process all of their emotions and they DO feel them: fear, anger, frustration, loneliness, joy, grief, jealousy, glee…. all of them. But they don’t always know what to do with those feelings so sometimes they come out as tantrums, inconsolable crying, apathy or just plain jumping up and down and carrying on. Pay attention so you have an inkling of what’s behind the behavior… pay attention so you don’t automatically react negatively….pay attention so you don’t assume your kid is being a pain in the butt on purpose. And pay attention so you don’t miss anything. It’s so hard to put your adult worries aside and focus, but you will be glad you did (and sorry one day, if you don’t). Listening to your child is the only way you will ever really know who he/she is. ~Grace
Make time. When we look back over our childhood, we rarely remember all the gifts we received from our parents. We remember the moments; the vacations, the dinners, the picnics and the days at the beach or the lake or the pool. We have so many things that can easily distract us. Remember to make time for memories. ~Karen Whitaker
Motherhood has completely changed me. It’s just about like the most completely humbling experience that I’ve ever had. I think that it puts you in your place because it really forces you to address the issues that you claim to believe in and if you can’t stand up to those principles when you’re raising a child, forget it. ~Diane Keaton
Jaren and I have done a lot of service over the years.
I would say my passion for volunteering began when my employer asked me to help organize the United Way Campaign for the employees. It was a week long event where we shared video’s, personal stories, and the many ways to give and serve. I had benefited personally from United Way charities like the Good Will store that our mother shopped at from time to time for us kids, as a single mother of three.
I began to get more involved in service when I worked with WaMu. They were a very service oriented company and gave their employees 12 hours per quarter to volunteer during work hours. It was a wonderful gift. It allowed me to do more, as a single mother. Its harder when you’re a single parent. Time is so precious. Leave in the morning, drop off your child at school, head to work, put in at least an eight hour work day, plus lunch and then pick up your child and head home to cook dinner, homework, sports, spend time together, get them their bath and ready for bed and do it all over again the next day.
I loved volunteering and serving. I always walked away feeling good. So I began to look for service that I could do with my son. I didn’t want for him to be home with a sitter while I was out volunteering.
We served in many different ways, from awareness/charity walks, to serving Thanksgiving dinners at a homeless shelter, to working with special needs kids and many other various events. It really was so much fun serving side by side with my son.
However, I did do a few things without my son, like in 2006, Jaren’s school invited me to join their Campus Involvement Committee. It was a one school year commitment. I enjoyed that and learned a lot about how the schools work. I also got to provide input. It was a great group of professionals to work with.
From 2005-2007 I was invited to join the Community Involvement Team at WaMu and was the Secretary for one of those years.
And lastly, one of the employees of UnityDallas asked me to join their committee to help organize their family event, called Where’s the Beach, which I did in 2008 and in 2010. I was the volunteer coordinator. It was about a six month commitment for the planning of the event.
When I resigned from the bank in 2012, I volunteered at UnityDallas, my church, for about nine months, working one to two days in the office, answering phones and handling minor office duties. It was a lot of fun.
Then, when Jaren got to high school, he began to go even further serving with our YOU youth program at church. He already had the experience. And he enjoyed serving. Even when the folks at the church needed a hand, they knew they could ask him. When they had Open Mic night for the YOUers, who took turns performing along with adults on a small stage, it was Jaren who worked the sound booth, taking a short break here and there to eat or perform his song. And when he graduated, he was able to get his service recognition, thanks to his sponsors and UnityDallas. I will tell you, that meant more to me than any academic or athletic award.
Giving service, whether we are thanked or not, whether we get an award or not, whether someone parades us on stage or not is really irrelevant. In the end, when I walk before God and he ask me and my son, what we did for his people, we will be able to reply, “We did this and we did it humbly with a grateful heart.”
I am in awe sometimes at how the universe works its way in and out of our lives. I use “universe” as an all-inclusive way; Father-Mother God, angels, spirit guides, transcended loved ones. I think they all move in and around us, guiding us, showing us, and speaking to us in unorthodox ways. Sometimes some of us may get caught up in the literal and not fully comprehend when someone is being led by some unforeseen guide. The spiritual words and lessons are more like codes and it is up to us to pay attention to the details.
Let me give you some examples.
I’ve had some pretty amazing synchronicity experiences or coincidences over the years. And after I met Brian, my children’s father, things really began to kick up a notch. I always felt as if we were being drawn to each other. When we met the first time, I felt as if I knew him, as if we had shared worlds and lifetimes together. When he looked at me it was as if he could read my every thought and feel every emotion inside my body. I wasn’t always comfortable with that. Out of that deep connection and passion we felt for each other, came my first born son, Jaren.
The first time I remember something extraordinary at work in the universe was about six months after Jaren was born. We were still living in downtown Dallas at the time. There were four malls that were about the same distance from us; one to the east, one to the west, one to the north, and one to the south. We’d been to all of them. This day, I drove to the one west of us which was in Irving.
It was close to the holidays so the mall had extra vendor booths set up in the center of the passageway selling their specialty items. These booths are seasonal. Some only come for a day or a weekend. With Jaren on my hip, I strolled through the mall. Soon, we came upon a booth that had four rectangular tables in a box formation with two ladies in the middle and binder folders with clear sleeves lying out on all the tables. Their sign showed they had biblical names with poem meanings. As I walked closer to look, one of the ladies asked me what my son’s name was. I told her that I was pretty sure they would not have his name, especially since they were pre-printed inside the clear sleeves. So she asked me again. I told her, “Jaren.” She smiled confidently and pointed to a binder book with the “J” names. Then I told her she probably had the original spelling of his name. So she asked me how I spelled it. I spelled it for her. J.A.R.E.N. She again reassured me that they did in fact have it.
I was in awe for many reasons. First, I didn’t know that Jaren’s name was biblical. I had not seen it in any bible and when we think of biblical we think of names in the bible. The second thing is the name Jaren was derived from Jaron, a Hebrew name meaning, he will sing, he will cry out. And thirdly, I had not seen or heard anyone with the name Jaren or Jaron for that matter so it was an uncommon name. How often does a person with an uncommon name find their name spelled the way they spell it on something that is already pre-printed or pre-made, not a specialty item made uniquely for them? I can tell you that I have not since ever seen Jaren’s name pre-printed on anything in any store that I have shopped at.
When we name our child, we want it to fit them. It’s such a powerful thing to give your child a name. It becomes a part of them and we want it to say something special about who they are. I thought long and hard about the name I chose for my son. This confirmation gave me reassurance that I had listened to my spirit guides and chose the name that was meant for my son.
A year later, our office moved from downtown Dallas to Irving, which I talked about in another post. Jaren’s daycare was also located downtown a few miles from our downtown apartment. I would drop Jaren off at daycare and then drive to work in Irving. Well, about a year later, the downtown daycare closed at that location. However, the teachers were moving to another location located in a large office building for a well-known, world-wide corporation. This daycare was designed to serve their employees. Want to guess where they moved? Yup! Irving. Of all the cities this daycare facility could have been relocated to in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex, they moved to Irving. Sure, I could have found Jaren another daycare in downtown Dallas and had considered it but I thought if I moved him with his current daycare at their new location, he would at least have many of his same teachers. I thought that would be better than having a new building, new teachers, and new classmates.
I began to see a trend. Something was drawing us to Irving. And while we didn’t move right away, it wasn’t long after we did move to Irving. Now, while that is pretty awesome in itself, there is still more to the story. I would later learn that Brian’s sister worked for that well-known corporation, in that very building that the daycare moved into. Just to put that in a little perspective:
Dallas–Fort Worth, by population, is the largest metropolitan area in Texas, the largest in the South, and the fourth-largest in the United States. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dallas%E2%80%93Fort_Worth_metroplex
These messages were clear to me and I was able to easily see the path. All of these choices guided me and my family to our highest good. I felt optimistic and confident after making these choices. I didn’t doubt my decision nor felt regret or remorse because the way was clear. I felt the universe guiding me. However, I will tell you that has not always been the case.
Example, when I was pregnant with Noah. My vision was clouded, my ears had a hard time deciphering the truth from all the noise, and my mind was filled with images of doubt. It’s hard to make a clear choice in this environment. It’s like sitting on a cliff and people are yelling at you to do this or do that and your mind is filled with chaos. And any move could be dangerous. Each person has their reason or motive for wanting you to make one choice over another.
People often simplify adoption and try to sum it up as better or worse, selfless or selfish, brave or weak. The positives are focused on the relinquishment, implying your child will have a better life and the negatives are fixated on parenting with false unforeseen assumptions that your child’s future will be bleak or worse off. So, what choice do you think a mother will lean towards? Something negative or something positive? Fear can lead a person down a dark path.
The choice that separated me from my second born son was a devastating one, one that I sometimes wondered if I would ever recover from. I was not at peace, although I acted and thought I was and tried to convince others that I was good with that choice. I believe it was the denial, the numbness that took over.
When we are no longer able to change the situation – we are challenged to change ourselves. – Viktor Frankl
So here is my take on divine intervention and what is meant to be will be.
Anything that God has intended… is for our highest good. And I personally believe that if a choice or decision gives you doubt, despair or a negative impact, then it probably was not the path that God had planned for us. That’s not to say that some choices won’t be challenging or have challenges. Our daily life has challenges. Work can be challenging. The bible is filled with stories of people overcoming challenges. But something that gives you a bad feeling inside is different than something being challenging.
Jaren and I were talking about this and I said it came to me like this. God always has a Plan B. When I mentioned this at a women’s group, one of the ladies said that God has the “Master Plan”. Well, that’s true. However, humans do not always follow the master plan. It’s called free will. I certainly would not think that God’s master plan is murder, or rape, or child abuse, or slavery.
After watching the movie Lion, it instilled this knowledge deeper within. Saroo made some choices that separated him from his family. After deep despair and the point of no return, he had to rely on his choices and fate. At a very young age, he learned to follow his gut instincts along with his survival instincts. He was listening to the voice within. At the same time, God was putting His Plan B into place.
I have a Garmin GPS. I put in the address and it is pretty good about getting me where I need to go. Usually I follow it but there have been times when I chose another route. And what happens when I do that? It says, “Recalculating.” The GPS then recalculates the next best direction from my altered direction. Sometimes when it is really cloudy outside or there is a bad signal, the GPS will go blank and then recalculate.
When I think back to that time with Noah, I don’t believe it was God’s plan one way or the other for me to parent or relinquish my rights. God gave me free will. I also don’t believe it was God’s intention for my children’s father to abandon his kids and me during a time we needed him most. But God gave Brian free will also. However, I do believe that God was putting into place a family for Noah in the chance that circumstances and choices would prevent Noah from remaining with his original family. God was preparing for Plan B. I truly believe that God’s Master Plan is not designed to hurt one to benefit another. That plays into the whole chosen one mentality. God is much bigger than that. Humans hurt. God loves. And love does not hurt, despite that old popular 70’s song.
I asked a friend of mine for her thoughts on this. While her situation is a little different, I thought she could add real perspective. Kim, her best friend and twin brothers were in a fatal car accident while on a double date during our freshman year in high school, leaving one twin and one friend alive, and one twin and one friend dead. It was a very traumatic event that shook our small town. This is what Kim said:
Well you know I’ve thought a lot about that. And of course people told me that I was spared to go on and do great things…which of course didn’t turn out that way. My life is wonderful, but quite ordinary. But I’ve wondered why God spared Ricky and I and how different the world might have been had the outcome been reversed. And you know what? I’ve come up with zilch, nada, nothing. When I think about it from God’s perspective it seems like a Sophie’s Choice. I don’t know why I lived and Linda didn’t. My gut feeling is that she would’ve gotten married and had kids and grandkids just like I have. But who really knows. But I do know that God is omnipotent. Perhaps God saw in that brief moment something in the future that made a difference to the world. Perhaps one of my descendants will work on something that alters the course of humanity. Or maybe one of Ricky’s descendants does something game changing. I have to have that faith, because anything else just seems too random. And given the complexity of life on this little Rock of ours, I just cannot believe in serendipity. I have to believe that God’s purpose for the outcome of that accident wasn’t just chance, even if it remains a mystery to me.
These are the great mysteries of life. But one thing that I am certain of, is that God and the universe are truly active in my life and whether I am following the Master Plan or God needs to put Plan B in place to recalculate my trip, I am glad I have God and my guides to navigate my journey and guide me to my highest purpose and good.
This is a Christmas miracle story that will surely warm your heart.
It’s that time of year again. As each week gets closer to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, I find myself feeling a little bit mistier and mistier. It’s been 17 years since we grew our family through adoption. Our younger son came into our lives toward the end of December of 1999. How does a family living in Central Wisconsin connect with an adoption agency and family from Texas? The story itself is a long one, but the short version is, it’s a “God thing.”
We were a family of three. My husband, Paul, and I had been married close to seven years before we had our oldest son, Alex, in 1991. He was our first little miracle. I had wanted to adopt children since I had been in high school. After a few more years of trying to have a second child, we continued to have no luck. It was then, that my husband and I decided to look into adoption instead of continuing down the road of having another biological child. We prayed about the decision. Paul and I were getting older and we did not know if adding to our family was God’s plan, but we felt drawn to go through with the application and the home study. We felt if we didn’t take this step, God couldn’t answer one way or the other.
Shortly after deciding to go forward, our family met with a local agency that specialized in foster care and adoption. The actual process was quite complex. Each of us needed to complete large amounts of paperwork as well as be interviewed. A long series of events took place and time went by, but finally, in June of 1999 we completed our home study. We were so excited and filled with anticipation.
One day during that summer, I was taking a walk with a very good neighbor friend of mine. We walked and talked and chatted about everything under the sun. Somewhere in the conversation, the topic of completing the adoption paperwork and the home study came up. My neighbor was surprised since she didn’t know our family was looking into adoption. She mentioned that she had several sisters living in Texas and one of her sisters had a close friend who had adopted several special needs children through an agency in the Dallas, Texas area. My friend wondered if she could give my name to her sister and have her give me a call sometime. We hadn’t heard much from the local agency that we were working with, so I said sure. I didn’t expect that it would necessarily lead to the adoption of a child from Texas, but I was always on the look out for more insights and information about adoption in general. I thought it would be great to talk with someone who had been through this process.
My friend’s sister called a couple of weeks later. She asked if it would be ok to have the family friend who had adopted these children give me a call. A few days after that, I spoke with this “friend of a friend” who had adopted special needs children. This entire string of events eventually led to contact with the adoption agency in the Dallas area. One of the first things that went through my mind, and that of my husband, was to make sure this agency was valid. We contacted our local agency and filled them in. They made some contacts and assured us that all was good. Our next steps included making a book about our family and completing more paperwork.
It wasn’t long, after all of these events occurred, that the adoption agency in Texas contacted us with a potential expectant mother and wondered if we would be interested. We said that yes, we were interested. Our anticipation began to grow.
A series of conversations and events took place over the next several months. At times, things were “on again, off again” with the expectant mother, Karen and her baby. As December grew closer, Paul and I spoke with our respective places of work “just in case” we would need to be gone. Since this would be an inter-state adoption, it required staying in the baby’s home state for a specific number of days. The caseworker also let us know that since this could be taking place during the holiday time, there might be some extra delays.
One December day, while at work, I received a phone call from the adoption agency in Texas that this baby boy had been born. My husband, Paul, and I were elated! We shared a little bit with our son, Alex, but didn’t want to say too much since we knew how quickly things could change. The caseworker said it was ok to go ahead and make plans to come to Texas. Much excitement and planning took place very quickly as the three of us (Paul, Alex, and I) worked to make flight arrangements and ensure everything was still in place with our paperwork and home study. Two days later, my husband and I received another phone call from our caseworker. She called to say that Karen decided to take her baby home and to cancel our plans to come to Texas. Our hearts broke; my heart shattered into a million pieces. For all of us, our emotions were all over the place.
On Christmas Eve morning, the caseworker called again. I called my husband in from the garage where he was unloading 2 x 4’s to build storage shelving in the basement. I handed him the phone because my heart just couldn’t take more news right then. The caseworker spoke with my husband and said that Karen was going to come in to sign the paper work that day. She asked us if we were still interested and if so, would we be willing to speak with both of them, the caseworker and the birth mother, on the phone later that afternoon after all of the paperwork was completed? We said, “Yes, we would,” and made only a couple of phone calls related to the new possibility of traveling to Texas.
It was the longest few hours of my life.
Finally the phone rang; Paul and I each got on different extensions so we could all be included in the conversation. We spoke with Karen, along with the caseworker for a couple of hours. When we finally hung up, we were so very excited! As was our family tradition, we ate our Christmas Eve meal and then went on to church for the Christmas Eve service. One of the hymns that was sung near the beginning of the service was “For Unto Us a Child is Born, Unto Us a Son is Given.” My husband and I nudged each other with tears in our eyes as the congregation sang this song. At this point, we were the only ones who knew we would be on our way to Texas in another day to grow our family through adoption.
A couple of days later, we were in Dallas. We met the caseworker and Karen, along with her mom. We were also introduced to our new baby boy’s 20-month-old biological brother, Jaren. After all of the waiting and excitement, my eyes met with the face of this tiny baby. My heart jumped and skipped as I held our new little boy, Noah, in my arms. We all stood around the room, feeling a bit unsure of things, visiting and getting to know each other. Karen and I made our way over to the couch and took turns holding this precious little one. Karen shared with all three of us a photo book that she put together with pictures of our little ones first days, some poems, and a letter to her son. My husband and I were beyond excited that we were adding to our family, yet it was hard. When we left, I felt both joy and sadness. My husband and I wanted to be happy; we were happy. It was a joyful time for our little family of three that was now growing to four. But there was also an underlying sadness that took place. We knew that our joy was Karen’s heartache and sorrow.
We stayed in Dallas for several days before returning to Wisconsin. Since it was an inter-state adoption, we had been told earlier that it would take awhile for the proper paper work to be completed by each state. A few days later, before we left, the caseworker made arrangements for us to meet with Karen and her son, Jaren, again. We met at a restaurant and had a good visit, all six of us together.
Shortly after that, we returned home, back to Wisconsin.
We kept in touch with Karen, Jaren, and their family through cards, pictures, email, and phone calls. We try to get together once a year. Over the years, the relationship has grown into more than a great friendship. It is now more like one big family.
God brought our two families together even though we lived half a country apart. Through every step, God’s hand has been in this relationship. God knew more than anything we could ever see ourselves. He not only grew our family through adoption, He brought two families together to offer support and friendship to each other and to raise this child. My love and gratitude is never-ending for this relationship, friendship, and family.
My story, One Woman’s Choice, is a true story.
While the agency led Paul and Rebecca to believe that I was “on again/off again” about my intention or choice, I was never sure and never made any empty promises.
This is what I wrote,
“Even though I wasn’t sure if I would be able to go through with the adoption, I had to at least try. I contacted the agency and made arrangements to meet with one of their caseworkers named Kristen.”
This is always a hard time of the year for me. It is coming up on the anniversary of the relinquishment to parent my second son. I am not alone in feeling this PTSD. It is a known fact that birth mothers suffer during the anniversary of their child’s birth or relinquishment date.
Without fail, this time every year which is a joyous time of the year for many, I get emotional without warning. Tears fill my eyes unexpectedly and without immediate cause. I get irritated easily and anger quickly. I become withdrawn and sometimes unapproachable.
In about one month, my office is moving to another building in the same city as our current office location. Late last year, our management began talking about moving to another building. They wanted it to be somewhat close to our current location, within 10 miles or so. They looked in nearby cities and also in our current city for a new place to call home for our Service Center. Employees waited impatiently at times curious as to where this new office would be. Many worried if their drive would be longer while others hoped their drive would be shorter in this very populated metropolitan city with hefty rush hour traffic patterns.
So we waited and waited while our management team looked for a new office building in the Dallas/Ft Worth area, assuring us every few months that they were getting closer and closer to a final decision. Needless to say, the possibilities were endless.
The city is the main cultural and economic center of the 12-county Dallas–Fort Worth metropolitan area—at 6 million people, it is the eighth-largest metropolitan area in the United States. – wikipedia.org
Earlier this year, the management narrowed it down to office space they had found in three different cities.
In April, during an all-employee meeting, they finally announced our new location. An exterior frontal building picture flashed on the projector and I couldn’t help but notice how familiar this building looked. As I continued to listen to our VP speak, I kept staring at the picture. I was pretty sure I recognized this new office space but waited patiently to be certain. Then the new address of our new location popped up on the screen. I was stunned.
I quietly told the person next to me that I had worked at that building before.
The VP gave the projected date, which was initially scheduled for November.
At first, I think I was surprised and somewhat shocked by the synchronicity of it all.
As reality began to sink in, I began to process the impact of this move for me. Moves are always somewhat stressful. While many employees in the office were talking about this new place, both positive and negative comments, with their highest concern being about the commute, I was internalizing what this move meant for me. I was pretty certain it was different. It wasn’t just about packing and unpacking, or a new driving route, or a greater or lesser distance from home, or longer rush hour traffic delays. For me, it was much deeper. It was about a traumatic moment in time that I would much rather leave in my past.
The first time my office moved out to this building, it was back in the late 1990’s. I was living and working in downtown Dallas. I was a single mom to Jaren and pregnant with Noah. And, I was on the road to making one of the most life changing decisions I have ever made. Life was filled with uncertainty. I was alone to care for my son and future son yet to be born. I was castaway by many of my family and even some friends and my children’s father had abandoned us. Life was challenging at best.
My employer at the time had scheduled our move to the new building at the end of that year. I was also due to deliver Noah at the end of that same year. And like my current employer, the move was set for November but then pushed back to December. My delivery date was also set for December.
As the end of the year approached, I was released for short-term medical leave to prepare for my delivery and my choice. I packed up my desk and went on maternity leave before the move occurred.
The next couple months would challenge my emotional resolve. I did not have the luxury to worry or think about our new office space, my new cube or my office belongings. My day-to-day was filled with taking care of my first born son Jaren and the future that I was considering for his younger brother.
After Noah was born, I signed relinquishment papers on December 24th of that year. Within a week, I handed over my newborn baby to a couple that I had never previously met. I trusted that the adoption agency had did their research and homework.
When my maternity leave was up and I was about to return to the office, I called my manager. I informed her of my decision. I asked her if she could send out an email to the office and inform them of my choice. I didn’t want to have to answer those questions over and over again. I also didn’t want to lie and say I lost the child. But sadly, she refused. She said it had something to do with policies. Ironically, within a year, another co-worker returned from maternity leave. Her child died. This time, my manager did send out an email to the team to let them know what happened.
So after giving birth, saying hello to my newborn son, relinquishing my parental rights, kissing my baby and placing him in the arms of his new parents, I prepared for my first day back to work.
I walked into our new office space no longer pregnant and with one less child than what my coworkers were expecting. I sat down at my new cube. I began unpacking my material belongings while trying to box up my clouded brain, broken heart and my muddy emotions.
This is the place where I walked out to the parking lot during my lunch hour, sat in my car, and cried tears of sadness and hopeless despair. Where I wrote letters to God asking Him to find a way to return my baby and heal my broken heart. A place and time where I contemplated suicide just so I could stop the pain, had it not been for my son Jaren, who gave me every reason to live.
I was stripped down to my core and there was little left of me.
And now, after several move dates have changed, with one of the scheduled move dates being on Noah’s birthday and I was thinking, “Are you freaking kidding me,” we are finally moving to our new office building in less than one month. I am bewildered. How do I move through this? What does this mean? Is there healing in all this?
I’ll admit, in the early months, I was amused by the fluke of it all. I joked about how God was playing a trick on me, all the while, reserving my anxiety. But now that the move is less than a month away, it has become very real.
I talked to my current supervisor privately and told her my story. I wanted her to be aware. I explained how this is a traumatic time of the year for me and that I am not sure how this move will impact me because of all the similar details; the history of the building, the same time of the year. I tried to make light of it and withheld my tears that were readily available to me. We both chuckled at the synchronicity of it all. I promised her that I am and will continue to do my best to move through this. She did seem to understand. She even said, “Well, this time you will be involved in the moving process rather than someone moving everything for you.”
I thought about her statement. It resonated with me.